Russian Opposition Leader Alexei Navalny Arrested in Moscow
After enduring chemical attacks and assassination attempts, Navalny now faces a prison sentence human rights watchdogs insist is politically motivated.
The United States, the European Union and human rights groups have called for the immediate release of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny after he was ordered to remain in custody for 30 days, less than 24 hours after he returned to Moscow from Germany.
Minutes after he and his wife arrived in Moscow, Navalny was detained by officers and held overnight in a police station in the city of Khimki. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo led the condemnation of Moscow after Navalny’s detainment.
“Deeply troubled by Russia’s decision to arrest Aleksey Navalny,” Pompeo wrote on Twitter. “Confident political leaders do not fear competing voices, nor see the need to commit violence against or wrongfully detain, political opponents.”
Navalny was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok in August and has spent the last five months recovering in Germany. His detention after arriving in Moscow was expected, as he was placed on Russia’s federal wanted list last month. Russia’s prisons service has claimed Navalny violated the terms of his probation related to a suspended 2014 embezzlement conviction. Navalny has claimed this conviction was politically motivated and the European Court of Human Rights agrees.
“It is impossible, what is happening here is the highest degree of lawlessness,” Mr. Navalny said in a video filmed at the beginning of the hearing. “The old man in the bunker is so afraid of everything that the criminal code has been defiantly ripped up and thrown away into the trash.”
In a hearing after his arrest, a judge decided Navalny would remain in custody for 30 days until his trial. Navalny’s lawyer Vadim Kobzev said he was notified of the hearing only minutes before it started. The prisons service has requested a court replace the suspended sentence with a three and a half year prison term.
Moments after the decision to detain Navalny for 30 days was announced, Navalny released a video message of encouragement to his supporters.